Monday, February 22, 2016

Caramel Toffee 'Tastic Cheesecake: A Girl Scout Cookie Inspired Recipe

The other day I came across an article from AZ Central in regards to the Cookie Dessert Challenge that the Girl Scouts of Arizona host. This is the third year that they have done this and they challenge local restaurants to incorporate the cookies into desserts for the month of February. If I'm not mistaken, they even had a contest for bloggers to submit their recipes. Of course I found out about it on the 19th and the deadline was the 20th. Womp. Womp. In solidarity, I decided to buy more Toffee 'Tastic cookies and create a cheesecake inspired by the only gluten free Girl Scout cookies. Not one of the restaurants offered a gluten free option. This made me incredibly sad. Good thing I can bake because I'll have my own dessert competition. Party of uno. Moi.
 I decided to use my go-to cheesecake recipe as it's a winner and has been tested with lots of taste testers. I originally tried this recipe back in high school when I was trying every fad diet out there. I found a cheesecake recipe from Suzanne Somers' Eat Great, Lose Weight (don't judge) and have modified it in true Timo fashion. This and a few other recipes have been the only thing that has stuck from that diet...LOL. Oops.

Instead of using a graham cracker cookie crust like I normally do, I used the Toffee 'Tastic cookies as the crust. These cookies are delicious. Short bread goodness with toffee bits. Yum. Yum. I got to try these last year for the first time as they tested them in Sacramento, CA back when I was living there, to see if they would be successful. I was so excited to be able to eat Girl Scout cookies again. They do not disappoint. Finally, the cheesecake is topped with caramel sauce because who doesn't love toffee and caramel? The combo is delicious and it just worked. See?
 I've always said that cheesecakes are a labor of love since they do take time to make. This one is no exception as the whole process takes right around 4 hours. Don't let that deter you from making it. Three and a half of those hours include baking and cooling down. What I'm trying to get at is, this is not a dessert to make if you're in a hurry or have procrastinated. This takes time and most importantly, love.

The last day to buy Girl Scout cookies is February 29th (hello leap year!). So...what are you waiting for? GET ALL THE COOKIES.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. :)

Cheesecake Ingredients:
  • 2 - 8 oz. packages non-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C Splenda or sweetener of choice
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 32 oz. non-fat Greek yogurt
Cookie Crust Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 packages of Toffee 'Tastic Girl Scout Cookies (approximately 21 cookies) + 1-2 cookies for garnish
  • 1 jar of caramel topping (fancy, I know!) or you can get classy and make your own. But why would you want to do more work? I used Archer Farms Salted Chocolate Caramel dessert sauce.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. For the Crust - Combine cookies in a food processor until finely ground. The cookies already have their own oil so you don't need to add additional to bind.
  3. For the Cheesecake - In a large bowl, add the cream cheese and sweetener. Beat with a mixer until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs one by one, making sure that they get mixed in evenly.
  5. Next, add in the lemon juice, vanilla and salt.
  6. Once the ingredients are fully combined, add in the Greek yogurt until evenly blended.
  7. Lightly spray a springform pan with cooking spray.
  8. Press the cookie mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan.
  9. Once the crust is complete, pour the cheesecake mixture on top.
  10. Fill a roasting pan with 1 inch of boiling hot water. Next you will need to wrap the outside of the springform pan with foil so that water doesn't accidentally leak into your cheesecake.
  11. Carefully place the cheesecake into the roasting pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
  12. Once the timer goes off, DO NOT open the oven. Turn off the oven and reset the timer for 1 hour. After an hour, you will take the cheesecake out and allow to cool before covering and placing in the fridge (approximately an hour).
  13. Once the cheesecake is ready to be served, remove the cake from the springform pan. Heat the sauce up and then drizzle the caramel sauce on top. Crumble more cookies and sprinkle on the cheesecake for garnish
  14. Proceed to shovel the cheesecake in your mouth and prepare for a mouf party.
  15. Makes 12 servings (or less depending on big your slices are).
What are your favorite Girl Scout cookies? Have you ever tried to make desserts out of them?

This week is all about the sweet treats... Stay tuned for my next post: Gluten Free Lemon Olive Oil Cake.

~The Hungry Latina

Monday, February 1, 2016

Slow Cooker Meatballs...AKA: Albondigas

I work with a large group of Latinos and we're always talking about food. A typical conversation may sound something like this:
Co-Worker: So what did you bring for lunch?
Me: I brought [insert latest homemade meal].
Co-Worker: Oooooh that sounds good
Me: [smiles] I brought extra!
Co-Worker: [big grin] Can I have some?
Me: Sure!

I am always sharing food and bringing in baked goods for them to try. I mean if I don't share, then that means I HAVE to eat it. I love eating and all, but my figure isn't going to keep itself. Soooo...that's when the sharing comes into play. Sharing is caring!

The other day my cell mate...I mean my cube mate started telling me about the albondigas that her mom made the previous night. She went on about how she loves her mom's albondigas, but they are high in fat due to the type of meat she uses and my cube mate has been working out and trying to eat healthier. This got me thinking about my own albondigas recipe that I had posted a while back. While it's simple to make, it's labor intensive when you "fry" up the meatballs. What if I recreated the original recipe into a slow cooker recipe? It could work, right?! IT TOTALLY DID! They are leaner than the original recipe since I didn't fry them so these will not break the calorie/macro bank. The flavor is still amazing and you will not believe that they are the healthier version of my original recipe.

I don't know why I didn't think of this way of cooking the albondigas sooner. I am always trying to simplify things in the kitchen and using a slow cooker is the best way to maximize your time when cooking. The slow cooker and I have not always had a great track record. I've probably destroyed more meals in that thing than I've had successes. I'm proud to say that this recipe was a slow cooker success. YAY! <happy dance> You would think the ease of use would equal great success. For me, not so much. I think the simplicity of it screws me up. Anyway, I digress.
The meatballs can be made gluten free and paleo if that's your thing. Making them Paleo also makes them low carb so all you Atkins, Keto, low carb peeps can participate in this deliciousness. Feel free to fry them up before sticking them in the slow cooker for extra fatty goodness. Or not.

Are you ready to get your cook on? Let's go!

Meatball Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. 96/4 lean ground beef
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. gluten free oat flour*
  • 1 tsp. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce**
  • 2 eggs
  • 20 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
*For Paleo/Low Carb, use almond meal.
**For Paleo use coconut aminos; Low Carb use Braggs Aminos or Gluten Free soy sauce

 Sauce Ingredients:
  • 6 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 yellow onion coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  1. Combine the ground beef, minced garlic, oat flour, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, mint, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients thoroughly. I’m weirded out by touching raw meat and a total germaphobe so I put disposable gloves on to mix the meatball mixture.
  2. Once the ingredients have been mixed together, you will take a tablespoon sized portion of meat and roll it in your hands into a ball shape. Do this with the rest of the meat. You should end up with approximately 35-40 meatballs depending on how small you make them. Place them in the slow cooker as you roll them.
  3. Set the meatballs aside while you prepare the tomato sauce.
  4. Cut the tomatoes and onions in large pieces and place in a blender or food processor with the salt, garlic and cilantro. Blend until smooth.  
  5. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cover.
  6. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. I cooked them for 8 hours on low and dinner was ready when I got home from work. My apartment smelled amazing AND I didn't have to cook. I call that a win.  
  7. Serve with rice, quinoa, or as is for the Paleo/Low Carb version. Top with cotija cheese or queso fresco.

Hope you enjoyed this recipe as much as I always have. It was one of my favorites growing up. What slow cooker recipes do you enjoy making?